Gramophone Magazine Editor's Choice

October 2005

Disc of the Month

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Debussy: La Mer & Piano Preludes transcribed for orchestra

Awards:

Gramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - October 2005

Penguin Guide

Rosette Winner

Catalogue No:

5580452

Discs:

1

Release date:

1st Aug 2005

Barcode:

0724355804525

Length:

78 minutes

Medium:

CD (download also available)
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Debussy: La Mer & Piano Preludes transcribed for orchestra


Debussy:

La Mer

La Boîte à joujoux

Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune

Préludes - Book 1: No. 7, Ce qu’a vu le vent de l’ouest

Préludes - Book 2: No. 2, Feuilles mortes

Préludes - Book 2: No. 12, Feux d’artifice

(piano preludes transcribed for orchestra by Colin Matthews)


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Claude Debussy: Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, L. 86

Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, L. 86

Claude Debussy: La mer, L. 109

I. De l'aube à midi sur la mer

II. Jeux de vagues

III. Dialogue du vent et de la mer

Claude Debussy: La boîte à joujoux, L. 128

Prélude

Tableau I

Tableau II

Tableau III

Changement a vue...Tableau IV

Claude Debussy: Preludes (arr. Matthews)

Preludes, Book 1, L. 117: Ce qu'a vu le vent d'ouest

Preludes, Book 2, L. 123: Feuilles mortes

Preludes, Book 2, L. 123: Feux d'artifice

Gramophone Magazine

“the clarification of the music’s intricately layered textures is revelatory… In short, a dazzling disc”

Gramophone Classical Music Guide

2010

“Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic's perfumed, pictorial 1964 recordings of Debussy's Prélude à L'après-midi d'unfaune and La mer (see above) have come to be revered – and rightly so, as they possess a remarkable frisson. Rattle's interpretations, recorded live, are markedly less urgent; with nary a noise from the audience, one might even mistake them for studio recordings. Yet these new accounts, too, have the ability to engross and sometimes even astonish. Note, for example, the sinuous swoop of the flutes and clarinets at the beginning of 'Jeux de vagues' in La mer, or the shimmering rustle of strings at 1'00" in the Prélude – both almost tactile sensations.
Of course, one counts on Rattle to elucidate detail, and here the clarification of the music's intricately layered textures is revelatory. Karajan appears more intent on blending colours, creating a kind of sonic kaleidoscope that, coupled with a strong narrative thrust, can make Debussy sound a little like Rimsky-Korsakov. Subtlety may be part of the issue. Karajan, for example, heightens dynamic contrast whereas Rattle grades the dynamics as per Debussy's instructions (he's one of the few conductors who seems to have noticed that there's but one fortissimo in the Prélude).
The makeweights are especially valuable.
There aren't that many recordings of La boîte àjoujoux in the catalogue and this zestful, gracefully droll performance is among the best. As in the Prélude and La mer, the conductor's supple tempo manipulations convey a real feeling of spontaneity. Colin Matthews's scoring of three piano Préludes evokes Debussy's sound world with preternatural accuracy.
The turbulence of 'Ce qu'a vu le vent d'Ouest' and sparkle of 'Feux d'artifice' are most impressive, though 'Feuilles mortes', with its hauntingly desolate atmosphere, is perhaps finer still.
In short, a dazzling disc.”

BBC Music Magazine

September 2005

****

“…Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, resplendently recorded, capture the languorous sensuality of L'après-midi supremely well, with the flautist Emmanuel Pahud phrasing in huge spans, and with the most refined rubati. La mer is less tempestuous than it can be... but I find it more convincing and more evocative than when it is turned into a concerto for orchestra. Once again every last touch of colour emerges in this beautifully natural recording.”

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Editor's Choice

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Bliss: Checkmate & Mêlée Fantasque

Bliss: Checkmate & Mêlée Fantasque


Bliss:

Checkmate

Ballet in One Scene with a Prologue.

Mêlée Fantasque


“[the RSNO] respond with a commendable polish and ebullient swagger that excite admiration” Gramophone Magazine

“Bliss composed Checkmate at the behest of dancer and choreographer Ninette de Valois to mark the Vic-Wells Ballet's inaugural visit to Paris in June 1937. A keen chess player, Bliss devised the scenario himself, the original idea having germinated some 14 years before in a dinner conversation with the Russian ballerina Tamara Karsavina.
Lasting some 53 minutes, it's a mightily impressive achievement, scored with sumptuous skill and crammed full of first-rate, colourful invention, much of which will already be familiar from the six-movement concert suite.
Now comes a compelling account of the complete ballet from David Lloyd-Jones and the RSNO, who respond with commendable polish and ebullient swagger. Lloyd-Jones's characteristically lucid conception possesses just that crucial bit more dramatic tension, expressive scope and thrust – and how pliantly he moulds those ravishing melodic tendrils in 'Entry of the Black Queen' (where there's some particularly disarming wind playing). Some occasionally raucous brass sonorities aside, the engineering is enormously vivid, the slightly unflattering acoustic appropriately akin to that of the theatre-pit.
The Mêlée fantasque (written in 1921 in memory of the painter Claude Lovat Fraser) makes a delightful curtain-raiser, with Lloyd-Jones extracting just that bit more vitality from this by turns exuberant and touching dance-poem than the composer (always an accomplished interpreter of his own music). A real bargain.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“This is the only available version of the full ballet… almost all the music to the same high, full-blooded standard… The early Melée Fantasque is much more than a makeweight… Lloyd-Jones's tempos are faster than the composer's, but there's no lack of expansiveness in the elegiac slower episodes that punctuate the effervescent throng. Superbly alert and responsive playing from the RSNO make this disc a real bargain.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2005

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - October 2005

BBC Music Magazine

Orchestral Choice - October 2005

Naxos - 8557641

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$9.00

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Lindberg, M: Clarinet Concerto, etc.

Lindberg, M:

Clarinet Concerto

Gran Duo

Chorale


(World première recording)

“Lindberg composed his Clarinet Quintet for Kriikku in 1992, and it is hard to imagine that this fabulously attractive work would ever have appeared without him to play it so brilliantly.” The Guardian Classical CD of the Week*****

“The clarinet has featured prominently as a solo instrument in Magnus Lindberg's output throughout his career, though it was only in 2002 that he set about writing a concerto for his longtime colleague Kari Kriikku. The finished article, however, is really very different from 1980s pieces such as Ablauf and Linea d'ombra.
Running for 25 minutes, the work's four sections play continuously, if not seamlessly. Beautifully written for the instrument, there are hints of Debussy in the opening pages and – in the orchestration – of Barber and Copland later on, but the Concerto is in no way derivative. It proceeds with ineluctable momentum through a varied tonal landscape (including some decidedly jazz-like passages) to an ecstatic peroration that is deeply moving and uplifting, before closing out serenely: Rautavaara meeting Gershwin, perhaps.
There is something of Rautavaara's manner in the modest Chorale (2001-2), written to precede Berg's Violin Concerto (both use the chorale Esist genug). The larger Gran Duo for winds and brass (1999), with its suggestions of Stravinsky's Symphonies of Wind Instruments, is utterly different though no less impressive. The duo is between the woodwinds and brass en masse, the work a bracing dialogue across some 20 minutes with fascinating incidents along the way, not least where the textures pare down to chamber proportions, though the dark-hued coda has considerable cumulative power. Very strongly recommended.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“Magnus Lindberg's Clarinet Concerto has enjoyed phenomenal success since its 2002 premiere… A marvellous vehicle for the amazing virtuosity of clarinettist Kari Krikku, this is a shiny, sophisticated, nostalgic cultural artefact, indubitably contemporary in language yet sensuously easy (tuneful, even) on the ear. ...is a stunning disc.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2005 *****

Presto Disc of the Week

27th October 2008

GGramophone Awards 2006

Record of the Year Finalist

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - October 2005

Contemporary Music - up to 25% off

Ondine - ODE10382

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Dvorak: New World Symphony & Martinu: Symphony No. 2

Dvorak: New World Symphony & Martinu: Symphony No. 2


Dvorak:

Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 'From the New World'

Martinu:

Symphony No. 2


“Having the most popular of Dvorák's symphonies coupled with one of the most approachable by a 20th-century Czech composer is a neat and original idea, particularly apt as both works were written in the United States. Paavo Järvi reveals his keen imagination and sharp concentration in both performances and under his guidance the Cincinnati SO is consistently excellent: ensemble more than matches that of rival versions.
The quality of the playing is highlighted by the refinement and clarity of the brilliant Telarc recording. In the Martinu Paavo Järvi brings out the Czech flavours in the writing: the first movement is open and fresh, with rhythms that echo Dvorák's Slavonic Dances.
In the New World Symphony, too, Paavo Järvi allows flexibility in tempo and phrasing but never sounds self-conscious or unspontaneous.
Though there are many highly recommendable versions of this much-recorded work, this one is a strong candidate in every way; and, quite apart from the outstanding recording quality, has its unique coupling to commend it.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“Jarvi [is] putting the Cincinnati Symphony on the map” Gramophone Magazine

“Jarvi not only reveals his own keen imagination and sharp concentration in both performances, he demonstrates consistently the excellence of the Cincinnati Orchestra under his guidance: ensemble in both works is first rate” Penguin Guide, 2010 edition ***

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - October 2005

Telarc - CD80616

(CD)

$14.25

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Brahms: Flute Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2, Op. 120 (arrangements of Clarinet Sonatas), etc.

Brahms:

Flute Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2, Op. 120 (arrangements of Clarinet Sonatas)

Schumann:

Romances (3), Op. 94

Schumann, Clara:

Romances (3), Op. 22


Jeffrey Khaner (flute) & Chalres Abramovic (piano)

Jeffrey Khaner, principal flautist of the Philadelphia Orchestra since 1990, is one of today’s most distinguished orchestral musicians. He is also a commanding soloist. This recording, his fourth solo CD for Avie, demonstrates his skills as an arranger as well, as he turns his attention to Brahms’ beloved Sonatas originally written for clarinet, later transcribed for viola by the composer. Khaner’s endeavours mirror Brahms’ own aims: to ensure wider dissemination of the music by adapting it to different instruments. The ingenious fillers are Khaner’s transcriptions of a pair of Three Romances, a set each by Robert and Clara Schumann, close friends of Brahms’. These unabashedly romantic works lend themselves perfectly to the flute and to Jeff’s masterful interpretations.

“a splendid showpiece for an outstanding flautist …Khaner’s transcriptions could not be more sensitive, nor the playing more inspired.” – The Gramophone

“With the poignant flute solo in the middle of the passacaglia finale of the Fourth Symphony among the most tenderly reflective passages in all Brahms, it is sad that he did not write any work specifically for the flute. That, no doubt among other considerations, was what led Jeffrey Khaner, the distinguished principal flute of the Philadelphia Orchestra, to make his transcriptions of the two Brahms clarinet sonatas.
As one would expect, his alterations to the solo parts are discreet, involving occasional octave transpositions upwards and, more rarely, downwards.
In many of the changes it seems that Khaner has been concerned not so much whether the flute can actually play Brahms's written notes but what is more effective on the lighter instrument.
Naturally the replacement of the clarinet by the flute brings a marked change of character.
While these late chamber works in their clarinet versions – or in the viola alternatives which the composer himself suggested – have an autumnal quality, the freshness of flute tone brings more of a spring-like feeling. Khaner also demonstrates that though flute tone in its lightness is fresher and brighter than clarinet tone, it is also generally gentler, with such passages as the running quavers in the finale of the First Sonata made more delicate. Yet sensitive as Khaner's arrangements are, it is hard to imagine many people actually preferring these flute versions to the originals: they simply make a splendid showpiece for an outstanding flautist.
Much the same can be said of the Romances by Robert and Clara Schumann, though there is a stronger case for flute transcriptions of Robert's pieces: he suggested the violin or clarinet as an alternative to the oboe which he originally had in mind. The charming Clara pieces were written specifically for violin but again Khaner's transcriptions could not be more sensitive, nor the playing more inspired. In all these works he is greatly helped by the brilliant, warmly understanding accompaniment of Charles Abramovic.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - October 2005

Avie - AV2075

(CD)

$15.25

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The Romantic Piano Concerto 38 - Rubinstein & Scharwenka

The Romantic Piano Concerto 38 - Rubinstein & Scharwenka


Rubinstein:

Piano Concerto No. 4 in D minor, Op. 70

Scharwenka, X:

Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor Op. 32


“Anton Rubinstein is well served on record these days: the catalogue lists half-a-dozen versions of the Fourth Concerto… Marc-André Hamelin gives a dazzling account of this, and also of the Scharwenka B flat Concerto which Earl Wild championed in the early 1970s. One of the pinnacles of Hyperion's Romantic Concerto series and strongly recommended...” BBC Music Magazine, October 2005

“Described by one respected critic as the greatest living pianist, Marc-André Hamelin soars to ever new heights of virtuosity. His phenomenal if nonchalantly deployed dexterity is matched by a cool, lyrical insight, making these performances virtually unsurpassable. Earl Wild's account of the Scharwenka, aptly described in America as 'a wing-ding of a romp', is a hard act to follow but there are few pianists of world class more adept at trumping other people's aces than Hamelin. Here it is possible to see his Scharwenka as equally dashing and razor-sharp as Wild's but with a subtler, more inclusive sense of poetry. There is never a question of virtuosity for its own sake.
Writing of Rubinstein's Fourth – and best – Piano Concerto, the august authors of TheRecord Guide once claimed that if the swelling introduction promises great things, all that emerges is a rather large mouse. But such words were written long before the advent of Hamelin, whose brilliance sets every potentially tired page alive with a truly blazing conviction. His concentrated force in the finale sweeps all before it, and he pulls out all the stops in the gloriously over-the-top conclusion.
Hamelin is superbly partnered and recorded, and lovers of lush, romantic melody embellished with hundreds and thousands of winking sequins need look no further. This extraordinary pianist now needs to be heard in the widest repertoire – not just in music's byways, however tempting and scintillating.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - October 2005

Hyperion & Helios - up to 50% off

Hyperion - The Romantic Piano Concerto - CDA67508

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Liszt - Symphonic Poems Volume 1

Liszt - Symphonic Poems Volume 1


Liszt:

Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne, symphonic poem No. 1, S95

Tasso, Lamento e trionfo, symphonic poem No. 2, S96

Les Préludes, symphonic poem No. 3, S97

Orpheus, symphonic poem No. 4, S98


Such music makes huge demands and these are met by Noseda with unfaltering command and lucidity. It is presented with an enviable clarity and acuteness. (The Gramophone)

“Volume 1 of Liszt's complete symphonic poems augurs well for the releases. Gianandrea Noseda and the BBC Philharmonic remind you at every turn that the days of a lofty critical dismissal of this uneven but pioneering and romantically audacious music are surely over. Coldly objective complaints about Liszt's lack of craftsmanship or melodic distinction have been echoed in other more stylishly phrased complaints: for Clara Schumann there was 'too much of the tinsel and the drum' while Edward Sackville-West could see little beyond 'the expensive glare and theatricality'.
But Liszt was nothing if not ambitious and if there are elements of truth in such accusations, they fail to convey the wider picture. Better an attempt to scale the heights than a safe repose on the lower slopes.
Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne is, indeed, epic in design and intention, seizing on Victor Hugo's obsession with the eternal battle between the forces of good and evil, of light and dark. But if Hugo's poem leaves us with an uneasy resolution, Liszt, a devout Catholic, ends with a radiant state of holiness. Tasso, too, celebrates final acclaim after the artist's trials and tribulations, and Les préludes attempts to unite four disparate ideas. Orpheus also conveys the victory of civilising art over baser forces.
Such music makes huge demands and these are met by Noseda with unfaltering command and lucidity. What could so easily topple into bombast is presented with an enviable clarity and acuteness. Excellent sound and presentation.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“Where vigour and energy matter, Gianandrea Noseda and the BBC Philharmonic sometimes achieve effective results - the concluding triumph of Tasso sounds genuinely grand under Noseda, painfully stilted under Haitink - and, thankfully, this performance of Les Préludes stresses flow over pomposity. ” BBC Music Magazine, October 2005

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - October 2005

Chandos - up to 40% off

Chandos - CHAN10341

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